Holy Smokes!


Caterer Ari White has generated some buzz lately by launching a pop-up business to bring his kosher, Texas-style barbecue to street festivals here and as far away as Philadelphia.

Just as a rock star might name his guitar (Eric Clapton had Blackie and B.B. King had his beloved Lucille), White gave his smoker a moniker: Hakadosh BBQ.

That’s where the, ahem, rub came.

By playing on Hakadosh Baruch Hu, “The Holy One, Blessed Be He,” White has invoked the wrath of some rabbis, who feel his barbecue equipment trivializes God’s name.

After a recent Philadelphia-area fundraiser for the Kohelet Yeshiva High School featured White’s barbecue, some rabbis in attendance complained to the kosher certifying agency of White’s businesses, the Baltimore-based Star K. The actual names of White’s concerns — Gemstone Catering, which does events, and Got Cholent, which provides catering on Shabbat — were not the problem.

Star K rabbis conferred and decided earlier this month that the smoker’s name should be changed, White said.

Star K, which operates under the auspices of the Vaad HaRabonim of Baltimore, did not respond to requests for comment.

“It quite honestly left me unsettled,” White said after hearing of Star K’s recent decision and the angry e-mails the certifier received. “I am sorry to those whom I have offended and look forward to continuing to bring New York City and surrounding areas the best barbecue they’ve ever experienced.”

White got another hint that the name was trouble when at last week’s Long Island Kosher BBQ Championship he claimed that a judge gave his team poor marks because he was offended by the name. The move may have cost his barbecue the championship since it had won in the brisket category and finished second in chicken and beef ribs.

“I spoke with one of the judges and he found himself offended by what he deemed as irreverence of God’s name,” White continued. “I am in the business of making people be b’simcha [in happiness], not offending their deepest beliefs.”

White agreed with Star K and will be changing the name, but doesn’t know yet what it will be. Meanwhile, all online mentions of the smoker will be changed to read “Kadosh BBQ,” which just means “Holy BBQ.”

“This is by no means a Jezebel sort of scandal,” White said, referring to the downtown Manhattan kosher restaurant that changed its name to J Soho. (There are competing versions of whether the Orthodox Union forced the change or if the owners did it voluntarily.)

In the case of Hakadosh BBQ, there was no intimidation, ultimatums or threats of any kind made by the Star K, White said.

Dani Klein is the founder of YeahThatsKosher.com, a global Jewish travel and kosher restaurant guide. Klein was named to the Jewish Week’s inaugural ’36 Under 36′ list in 2008. Continue this discussion with Dani on Twitter: @YeahThatsKosher